OPINION: Social media heightens power of tribalistic fans to offend
Football fans love their clubs. Up and down the country, thousands of fans show a powerful level of commitment to supporting their beloved clubs, paying huge amounts of money and travelling thousands of miles to cheer their team on home and away.
Fans are also extremely passionate and the opinions they have on their team can be wild and driven by their heart and the emotions they have.
Fans are also extremely tribalistic and are quick to jump to the defence of their team when they feel threatened or as if someone has wronged their club.
Social media has only heightened this and its now extremely easy for someone to post an opinion and then for someone else to reply. “Fishing” culture has become a central part of the fan experience now and it seems every group of supporters has those people who love to post things just to try and get a reaction from opposing fans, even though they probably don’t believe what they have posted.
This has even infiltrated mainstream media. A large part of a newspapers reach is now online and with print sales declining, they do a lot of business by getting views online which can lead them to post click-bait, dramatic headlines or opinions because they know people will react to it. Radio stations are worse for it, especially if they have a phone-in element, and they know a good way to create interaction is to have someone spouting an opinion which fans will feel aggrieved about.
Though the culture of being a football fan encourages fans to have an opinion and defend their team, there is also a line which must not be crossed. Passionate debate is perfectly fine and should be welcomed but that shouldn’t lead to personal abuse.
The recent Leeds United and Karen Carney affair has shed an unwelcome light on issues in society, including the misogynistic attitudes that sadly remain in football. Leeds should have expected the response their post got but we shouldn’t lose sight on the real problem which is those who posted a torrent of abuse.
Football fans are allowed to defend their team, it is all part of what makes us supporters, but tribalism shouldn’t cloud people’s judgement or stop them from doing the right thing.